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President Thein Sein angers flood victims

Burma’s President Thein Sein yesterday flew by helicopter to a number of towns in Burma that have been hit by flooding over the past week, but locals in Irrawaddy division claim he showed little sympathy.

Rather than giving solace to residents of Heznada, where numbers of families have had to evacuate flood-damaged houses, locals there claim he focused his visit on asserting the rule of law, and even warning against the perils of gambling.

“He talked about alleviation of poverty and rule of law in the wards and gave directions on eradicating gambling and peaceful living among civilians,” said a source in the town.

While some time was given to discussing aid measures for the victims, the Heznada resident told DVB that Thein Sein just gave a “boss talk”, and authorities only invited members of the community who “would listen to them”.

Security in the town was beefed up prior to his visit yesterday, and armed troops ordered to patrol streets. State media reported that he also visited Pegu division and Arakan state.

Heavy flooding has hit Burma’s eastern, western and southern regions, affecting tens of thousands of people. In Pegu town in eastern Burma up to 10,000 people have been forced from their homes, and recent reports from inside the country say that water levels on the Chindwin River, Pegu River, Ngawun River and Thanlwin River had all risen above levels considered dangerous.

Vast swathes of farmland are underwater in Irrawaddy division, the same region that was struck by the devastating cyclone Nargis in May 2008, which eventually killed around 140,000.

Shortly after the cyclone struck, Thein Sein, then prime minister, led a delegation to meet victims, but secret recordings made by DVB showed a less than empathetic leader, whose colleagues were brazenly telling people to stop complaining about their situation.

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